Homeless ID system won’t be successful

Freedom New Mexico

A plan to tag each homeless person in Colorado Springs will never work. Those who advocate the ID program undoubtedly mean well. It may seem logical to the orderly, disciplined, rational mind.

But it’s never going to work.

A story in Monday’s Colorado Springs Gazette told of the ongoing saga of the failed ID system, which local non-profit agencies have been trying to impose since 2007; that’s when a downtown business improvement district issued a $20,000 grant for the program.

The system has faced technical problems, and the vendor who sold it went out of business. Technical problems can be overcome, but opposition from those who provide services to the homeless will prove insurmountable — for good reason.

Here’s how it would work, if the most enthusiastic advocates have their way: Providers of social services, such as soup kitchens, would scan the cards before rendering aid. A cardholder would qualify for aid only by satisfying the requirements of a case manager. Each manager would try to move each homeless person toward self-sufficiency.

“What we are looking at is, if you’re going to be in town, using the services provided in Colorado Springs, you get a card for maybe two weeks — just a courtesy, because we’re good hosts in our city — but within that two weeks, if you want to keep availing yourself of the services, you need to check in with a case manager,” said Bob Holmes, director of Homeward Pikes Peak, a nonprofit that tries to coordinate the efforts of organizations that help the homeless.

The social services network in Colorado Springs is composed of a patchwork of private charities, large and small, each with a unique philosophy. The diversification ensures that a variety of needs are covered throughout the region for people from every circumstance imaginable.

The decentralized nature of social services also makes central control and coordination impossible. The CEO of Catholic Charities said the agency’s Marian Soup Kitchen will never demand identification or compliance with an agenda before serving a meal.

The agency serves whomever walks through the door, whether a big-shot executive whose investments failed or a meth addict who doesn’t want help. The soup kitchen isn’t a rehab facility. It’s a kitchen that serves food without rendering judgment. Like most other social services organizations, it’s not about to subject itself to the control of Homeward Pikes Peak.

Furthermore, a great number of homeless people are incapable of leading lives of compliance. If eating at a soup kitchen requires a bar code and a caseworker, some will opt for dumpster food.

Most rational, self-sufficient, hardworking individuals are in favor of tough love. From a self-help perspective, the cards and bar codes may seem like a great idea. They would limit assistance to those who are willing to improve.

From a practical, real-world perspective, it’s never going to work.